Current job: Freelance Conference Interpreter based in Geneva
Languages – English (first language), French, Spanish and Russian
Before starting the Masters in Leeds I had done a Bachelor’s degree in Russian studies and then set out to explore the world as an ESL teacher. I taught for five years in Paris, Moscow, and Madrid. Eventually I decided that I needed a new challenge and I wanted to try a new profession. Well, it certainly proved to be challenging, that’s for sure!
I work in Geneva as a freelance conference interpreter in the English booth with French and Spanish. I am very actively working on adding a French B at the moment (B is an active language). Since I am half-French I do think that it’s possible but it requires a lot of hard work and dedication.
I love what I do- at the moment I’m in a train off to interpret at an international film festival. There is a lot of variety and excitement in this job but there is also an extreme amount of stress and hard work. There are some people for whom interpreting seems to be easy and who enjoy a comfortable lifestyle almost right after qualifying. For the rest of us there are a lot of sleepless nights in the first few years and many, many hours spent studying and practicing. The Masters prepares you as much as it can in one year of studying interpreting but then it’s up to you to network and prepare for accreditation tests. I passed the freelance test at the UN after a few months of volunteer interpreting and paid jobs. I also prepared at home on my own for the test. I would never have passed if I hadn’t done a Masters in Conference Interpretation at Leeds and if I hadn’t volunteered so much and had had some professional experience right after the programme.
This job certainly isn’t for everybody because of the stress and unpredictability but if you have ambition, determination, and a passion for languages than you should go for it!
Current job – Conference interpreter – UN and agencies
Languages – English (first language), Spanish and Russian
I did the one-year MAIT course with a placement in the United Nations Office at Vienna in March, which is an excellent opportunity the Bath course offers, allowing students to see how the UN system functions on a day-to-day basis. Apart from the interactive, practical lectures on simultaneous, consecutive and liaison interpreting, other aspects of the course taught important skills for language professionals. One such element was our group translation project, which was an invaluable introduction to translation workflow and house style.
My dissertation was on a modern novel in short stories called ‘Sin’, by Zakhar Prilepin, which eventually led to some other literary translation work. Following the exams at Bath, I was selected to go on a two-month UN training course in the headquarters in New York. This consisted of intensive training using recordings, written speeches and dummy-booth experience. In early 2011 I moved to Geneva, where I passed the UN accreditation test and began to work for the international organisations based there. During the two years I have worked as an interpreter, I have had the opportunity to work at several high profile meetings, such as the UNFCCC negotiations, and travel to some fascinating locations, such as Sri Lanka and South Korea. I am passionate about my profession – every day is different and exciting, and there’s always something new to learn!
After completing my MA in Interpreting and Translation at the University of Bath (English to Russian and Russian to English), I decided not to opt for a career as a professional translator. This may sound strange, especially after having enjoyed the course and learning a number of important skills. However, the truth is that i realised that translating/interpreting was simply not for me.
Nevertheless the time I spent at Bath has not been in vain; indeed far from it. Following my graduation I was able to win a full studentship award from the Centre for Russian Central and East European Studies to complete a Master’s of Research (MRes) in Russian, Central and East European Studies, followed by a PhD at the University of Glasgow, looking into the question of Latvia’s Russian-speaking minorities.
Central to my research are my language skills which i was able to develop during my time at the University of Bath. I am currently undergoing a media analysis of Latvian press in both Russian and Latvian. Moreover, I intend to conduct a great deal of research in Latvia through face-to-face interviews with politicians and policy-makers in both Latvian and Russian.
If I had not first completed my MA then I would be much less equipped and would have far less confidence to conduct such interviews in my non-native language. However, I feel that the skills of interpreting and translating are highly transferable, and I have no doubt that they will hold me in good stead in my current and future research.
Current job – Freelance interpreter and translator
Languages – Italian and English
Marina has a first degree in law. Since 2010 she has been working freelance as an interpreter (as well as a translator) in both the private and public sector. She is working mainly as a court interpreter and a conference interpreter. Her specialist fields are legal, business, financial and media.
Current job – Freelance interpreter – UN, Geneva
I thoroughly enjoyed my MA at the University if Westminster: living in London, attending a challenging yet friendly course, meeting lots of interesting people and having the chance to visit the EU Commission in Brussels and UN in Geneva. I was also lucky enough to attend the 2007 World Social Forum as a volunteer interpreter.
After the course, I spent a couple of months at the University of Lisbon in order to consolidate Portuguese as a C language, and the I moved back to Barcelona, where I am from, to start freelancing.
It wasn’t easy to get started but I managed to find a little niche and started to develop my career. At the beginning I mostly worked as a liaison and volunteer interpreter but was later given the chance to interpret some very interesting interviews for the SPanish media and work as a simultaneous interpreter during a 2 month development course held in Geneva. Slowly but surely, some of the agencies and organisations I had contacted began to offer me both simultaneous and consecutive interpreting assignments.
Most recently, I passed the UN Spanish freelance interpreter test. Again, it hasn’t been easy getting started but overall, I must say I am ver happy to work in a field in which every day is different, you get to know people you would never meet on other contexts and you learn about the most unimaginable topics!
Current job – Freelance Interpreter – EU institutions, Brussels
I knew when I was finishing the MAITS course in Leeds that i wanted to work for the EUropean Institutions and I wanted to sit the accreditation test as soon as possible as I felt that it would be very easy to fall out of practice after the course. During the summer I spent six weeks at conferences in Switzerland and Italy doing voluntary interpreting. I would highly recommend this as an excellent way of making the transition from the classroom to the real world of interpreting, in a situation with little pressure and where the listeners are hugely grateful for your work.
My EU test was in November so I dedicated the months before then to working on my languages and on my interpreting technique. I lived close enough to Leeds to be able to commute there two or three times a week to help out with the new students, also started doing some translation work. I found this simply by looking for agencies in the telephone directory. At Leeds we had been advised not to simply email CVs but to phone or visit in person where possible and this proved to be sound advice. Translation ‘agencies’ tend often to be someone’s house so knocking on the door and handing over my CV was quite intimidating but did prove to be the best way of finding work.
Since moving to Brussels I have been working mainly for the Institutions but have also continued with the occasional translation and am doing quite a lot of private market interpreting. After the first few months people start to get to know you and I quite often receive offers of work from people who have been given my number by a colleague – there is certainly no shortage of work in the English booth. In my first year I have already been on one mission to Slovenia and received several other offers of missions this autumn, including one to Beijing, but had to decline these due to already having accepted other work. Hopefully there will be more opportunities to travel in the future, particularly once I start to add more languages to my combination.
Katy fowler completed the MAIT course in 2008 and then spent time in Italy and Germany doing work experience in translation agencies. She speaks German and Italian. She entered the EU through the top-up course scheme and passed the inter-institutional examination in June 2009. She has now moved to Brussels and is working freelance as an interpreter for the institutions and as a translator for a German translation company.
Current job: Freelance Translator and Interpreter based (French-English)
I was working on a French IT helpdesk when I first became interested in interpreting and translating as a career, after watching a TV show where an interpreter in Spain was helping an English-speaking patient to communicate with hospital staff. I liked the idea of allowing someone to communicate and of languages being central to the role. I therefore started to look at the qualifications that were on offer and saw that Salford offered an MA in Interpreting and Translating. Before I knew it I was enrolled to start the following September!
The MA was hard work but very rewarding, and taught me not only how to interpret and translate but also the wider knowledge which is essential to conference interpreters in a range of areas including politics, international relations and medicine. After completing the dissertation I felt that I needed to spend some more time in France to perfect my French before embarking on a career in interpreting and so spent 6 months in Paris working on a helpdesk.
As soon as I got back to the UK I decided to widen my interpreting prospects by gaining another qualification – the DPSI (Diploma in Public Service Interpreting), which I knew I would need to register on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters. The course was only two hours a week, allowing me to work full-time at the same time.
My first interpreting job was as a simultaneous interpreter for a European conference on culture, which was the last thing I expected to do as my first job. It was hard work but I got through it, which gave me more confidence in my ability. I went on to do a variety of translation and interpreting jobs, including police and court jobs and another conference and found that my confidence grew after each job.
I took the plunge and started working as a full-time translator and interpreter in July 2008, having already made some useful contacts within the world of translation and interpreting.
As with any job there are certain things that I don’t like about being an interpreter and translator. One of them is the unpredictability of work and having to work weekends, often at short notice. I also don’t like the emphasis on tight deadlines which comes as a condition of many translation jobs. However, I love the work itself and being my own boss is great as I have maximum flexibility with my hours and holidays. I also really enjoy the variety of the work: I do translations on a variety of topics, and my interpreting work is based in a number of different settings.
Current job: Conference & Public Service Interpreter, Trainer, Lecturer
Since graduating from the University of Salford I have worked mainly in conference interpreting with assignments comprising European Work Council (EWC) conferences and training sessions and conferences in areas such as music, forestry, construction and agricultural equipment, payroll, wound bed treatment and dressing manufacturing.
I also continued with my studies and obtained a Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) in English Law and am currently taking the DPSI Health option. Public Service assignments have involved me working at Job Centres, housing agencies, GPs and hospitals, defendant/QC meetings and the Crown Court.
The translation work I have undertaken so far has been of a legal and business nature.
Work in other areas includes lecturing on the BA and MA Translating and Interpreting at the University of Salford, delivering DPSI Law lectures and note-taking training for DPSI students and trainers for Interp-Right and co-publishing ‘Note-taking for Public Service Interpreters’ with Kirsty Heimerl-Moggan.
I find my work very rewarding and interesting and enjoy the challenges it poses. I plan to continue working as an interpreter and trainer and to publish further field-specific literature.
First job – temporary contract in translation, IAEA, Vienna
Current job – Freelance interpreter and translator, main employer – OSCE, Vienna
Languages – English (first language), French, Russian, Spanish and Italian
My undergraduate degree was in Modern Languages. I studied French and Russian and literature at St. Andrews. I also took a few modules in Italian, Spanish and International Relations.
I had learned French from the age of 5 and wasn’t willing to give up until I could speak it properly. I applied for a whole range of different degree programmes, ranging from Chemistry to Maths, International Relations and Russian. In the end, I obtained a degree French and Russian. I think that my broad set of interests has served me well, as I have been called upon to interpret at meetings on UNEP treaties governing emissions of unpronounceable chemicals, a safety review inspection at a nuclear power plant, a trade round table including presentations from the manufacturing industry, and debates on human rights in Central Asia.
Originally I had my sights on a career in diplomacy or journalism, but eventually decided that these were not the right paths for me. Studying languages – and Russian in particular – seemed wise nonetheless, as I was sure that having such a practical and relatively unusual skill would mean I would somehow be able to earn a living.
The MACITS course taught me how to interpret and provided me with invaluable professional connections. I found the translation component somewhat less useful as I had already been freelancing during my undergrad, but I am grateful to have a translation qualification as well as an interpreting one, as the ‘piece of paper’ has opened doors.
I applied for an editing position at the IAEA and came second in their competitive test (done from my computer at home). I then wrote and asked them to bear me in mind for translation assignments, and lo and behold, a few short weeks later I was offered a temporary contract. Shortly after I took and passed the UN test for freelance interpreters. My exposure to UN-type material in translation was of great help in passing that exam.
My job changes every week; some conferences are more stimulating than others. I’m currently both living and working in Vienna, which is a lovely change after a year of commuting to work at a variety of organizations in Geneva, and hoping that I’ll do a good enough job to be offered further work in future.
Advice to potential students of interpreting:
The real work starts once you’ve graduated (and no, you’ll never feel “ready” to work. Ever).
Go and meet every chief interpreter you can, in person. Apply speculatively and update employers with your availability to remind them that you exist. If interpreting on the Geneva market, register with the Interpreting Services secretariat; it might seem expensive, but a month’s registration costs less than half a day’s pay, and you’re unlikely to be offered work if you aren’t on their books because even chief interpreters who know you will probably use the Register as their first port-of-call to find out who is available on a given day. It’s even possible to register before passing a freelance test, though this is relatively unusual.
In the current economic climate, you need to set your professional domicile to where the work is; you are unlikely to be whisked in as an all-expenses-paid from Burnley for an assignment in Geneva. Budget well and you can still make a profit, even if you are financing your own transport and accommodation.
In the long term, keep your skills up. English booth interpreting can involve long periods of waiting for “foreign” in many fora, so it’s important not to forget how to do the job. One of the best colleagues I know, who has been in the business for decades and never wants for work, still records herself for the first few weeks after her summer holiday to make sure she’s still up to scratch.
Current job: Staff translator and interpreter – ECOWAS (French-English)
Since graduating from the University of Salford, I have been working as a staff interpreter at the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development in West Africa. As part of my duties I provide, together with the other members of staff, interpreting services during meetings organised by the Institution. Every three months we have our Board of Directors meeting during which projects are submitted to the Board for approval. I also work during the meetings of our Board of Governors which comprises Ministers of Finance from West Africa. When I am not providing interpretation services at meetings I translate documents prepared by the Bank or sent to the Bank.
Current job: Freelance Translator and Interpreter
Since completing my MA in Interpreting and Translating at the University of Salford, I have been working as a freelance translator and interpreter.
My translation portfolio has grown steadily. Although I regularly receive translation projects with French and German, the majority of my workload is with Polish.
I have also been endeavouring to specialise in selected fields and recently sat the exam for the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) with English law. I also now specialise in mechanical engineering and machinery as well as in EU law and sport. Most recently I received a contract to translate the official website of the Polish Football Association.
In interpreting, I have done extensive work with clients such as the police and courts, solicitors, insurance investigators and private business consultants. Most recently I have been involved with a consultancy company helping local Polish businesses.
Furthermore, I recently interpreted at the European Social Forum (ESF) in Malmø, Sweden. I also recently received confirmation that I will be interpreting at a medical conference in Prague next year.
Current job – Staff Interpreter – European Parliament, Brussels
I graduated from Westminster in 2006 and am now working as a staff interpreter at the European Parliament (working from French, German, Spanish and Italian into English). I think it’s fair to say that the work is extremely varied – one day you might be interpreting as the leading political party in Europe plots its election strategy, the next helping MEPs to pick through the minutiae of the latest emissions trading legislation. It’s a job that in just a few months has taken me to India and Bangladesh to talk climate change, to Liverpool to explore the 2008 European Capital of Culture and to Munich to discuss patent law. It’s tough work!
It is daunting for a newcomer but now is a great time to join the profession with native English-speaking interpreters in short supply and in great demand. The Westminster course certainly helped me to get started quickly – within 6 months of finishing the course I had passed the EU institutions’ accreditation test and started work as a freelance interpreter and within little more than a year, I had passed the staff competition. The course definitely mirrors real life in the profession – it’s intensive, you have to learn quickly, you have to be professional at all times and, if you get it right, it can be very rewarding indeed.
First job – UK government translator
Current job – Freelance interpreter – UN and agencies, Public Services
Languages – English (first language), French and Russian
I graduated from the MAIT course at the University of Bath in 2009, having previously worked for four years as a UK government translator and prior to that as a teacher of English at Orenburg State University, Russian Federation. I passed the UN freelance interpreters test with both French and Russian in September 2009 and moved to Geneva in 2010, where I began working for the UN and other International Organisations, including WHO and ILO. I also work for Organisations outside Geneva, such as UNODC and UNIDO in Vienna, FAO in Rome and UPU in Bern. Although I now live back in the UK, I remain professionally domiciled in Geneva, working on the freelance market. For the past two years I have also been working as a public service interpreter with both French and Russian, primarily for the UK National Health Service.
My interpreting experience in the last four years has been extremely varied, encompassing topics such as human rights, labour legislation, healthcare, transport and ICT. I greatly appreciate the variety and flexibility freelance interpreting offers, especially as I now have a family, and have managed so far to combine the two, as well as leading foreign language singing sessions in Gloucester for babies and infants!
Current job – Staff Interpreter – Government of Canada, Ottawa
I started the MA at Westminster in 2006, following an undergraduate degree in linguistics and modern languages. I trained in French and English, interpreting in both directions.
I am from Québec CIty, Canada. The Westminster programme has a European focus, so it was an opportunity for me to brush up on institutions, cultural references, vocabulary and accents I was less familiar with. I had to adapt quickly, and that has made me more versatile – now I’m comfortable in both a European and a North American setting.
The course at Westminster was demanding, yet the interpreters who taught me struck a healthy balance between high expectations and support when i needed it. During my studies, I appreciated the opportunities to volunteer at meetings and visit another EMCI programme.
Since finishing the degree, I have taken up a full time post with the Government of Canada in Ottawa, where I am a staff interpreter.
Current job – Client Service Representative – Christie’s Fine Art Auctions, London
Following a BA Joint Honours degree in Italian & History of Art from the University of Leeds, I worked as a PA for 18 months then moved to Rome to teach English for seven months. I then decided to come back to the UK and do the MA in Conference Interpreting at Leeds because I wanted to gain more employability skills and widen my knowledge of current affairs.
The MA allowed me to develop high-level competencies in mother-tongue and foreign language expression, effective research techniques, confident public speaking, the ability to work under stress and a wide knowledge of international current affairs. This led to an exciting employment opportunity at Christie’s auction house where I am fortunate to pursue my cultural interests with particular responsibilities to international clients.
I would not hesitate in recommending the course to students with just one language and a desire to use their skills in a particular sector. The scope for a rewarding and successful career is practically limitless!
Current job – Translator – Ernst & Young, Stuttgart
I graduated from the MAITS program with German in September 2002, and thanks to a previous internship I was able to start immediately at the Language Services department of DaimlerChrysler in Stuttgart, Germany. There I was responsible for translating and coordinating the translation of mainly legal documents and training materials.
Over time I also began going on interpreting assignments, interpreting amongst other things at board meetings, press conferences and advanced driving courses. It was also while at Daimler that I was asked to be State Examiner for Translation and Interpreting in the German state of Saarland.
Now I work for Ernst & Young as a translator (mainly financial texts) also in Stuttgart, where the skills I learned at Leeds continue to help me along my chosen career path.
Current job: Freelance Translator and Interpreter
After spending four years working in IT, I graduated from Salford with an MA in Interpreting and Translating (French and English) in 2006.
Since then I have been working full-time as a freelance interpreter and translator, interpreting at various conferences including the Annual Assembly of the European Tax Federation and Liverpool’s 2008 European City of Culture events. Furthermore, in 2007 I gained a Diploma in Public Service Interpreting from the Institute of Linguists and now interpret for the police, courts, prison service, hospitals and job centres.
On the translation side, I translate large volumes of work in domains as varied as finance, the automotive industry, tourism and sport. Most of this is from French into English, though I also do some translation work from Russian into English.
Current job – Freelance Interpreter – EU institutions, Brussels
After graduating from Leeds in 2004 I applied to be a Tour Manager accompanying American teenagers and teachers on their fast-paced educational trips around Europe. It was a great way to use my Languages and get paid to travel. I then went to work in the same tour agency’s Rome offices but after a couple of months decided to come back to the UK.
I was interested in interpreting for the EU but they weren’t recruiting at that time so i got a job at Language Line, a telephone interpreting agency where I was responsible for recruiting telephone community interpreters. Unfortunately the job made no use of my languages, although I signed up as a French – English interpreter and telephone-interpreted in my spare time.
Not being able to use my languages as much as i wanted to became very frustrating so i decided to become a conference interpreter at all costs. I received an ad for an internship in Geneva from my former course director at Leeds, Svetlana, and applied immediately. The notice asked for French and Spanish to English, and although my Spanish was rusty I thought I could improve it. I was accepted and so spent 3 months in Geneva as an intern, learning huge amounts all the time.
I then spent another 6 months freelancing before the test at the EU came up, which luckily I passed. After spending a couple of months on a language course in Spain, I moved to Brussels, where I’ve been living for the past 18 months, working hard as a freelance interpreter on the EU’s books. After 12 months here I added Spanish to my combination and am now working on German and Greek. The job is challenging, well paid and rewarding and i enjoy the prospect of learning more and more languages.
During the MA in interpreting and Translation at Bath University I was able to do a work placement at the International Union of Railways (UIC) in Paris (official languages: English, French and German), where I was subsequently recruited as a translator and interpreter, and am still there almost four years on.
I work for the language service subsidiary of UIC translating various UIC documents including: technical standards, minutes/agendas of meetings, general correspondence and communications, brochures, presentations, the annual budget & accounts, technical reports and assessments (etc). I also proofread an increasing number of documents drafted in English, often by non-native speakers, for which an understanding of their mother tongues is often useful (since it enable me to second-guess the meaning when it is not clear).
I also interpret meetings in simultaneous, consecutive and whispering modes. The meetings cover various areas and range from small working groups to full plenary sessions of higher-level bodies, and more occasionally, workshops or seminars on specific themes.
I travel frequently, a yearly average of once a fortnight. Destinations include venues in Brussels, London, Lisbon, Berne, Frankfurt and Berlin (and Poland, Spain, Italy and the Nordic countries sometimes host meetings also). Further afield, I have been to Moscow, Seoul and Marrakech.
Highlights include the opportunity to learn about a specific area, in a structured environment with more experienced colleagues to draw on, rather than being thrown straight in the deep end of freelancing. It is also a guaranteed source of work and income (since we are on fixed salaries), and very good experience for a beginner, enabling younger staff to gain a solid grounding in the profession.
I decided to study languages because I thought that it would be easier for a language student to find a good job and that good interpreting skills coupled with good people skills and contact can create valuable opportunities.
I spend part of my time on a university campus where I am the postgraduate tutor and teach consecutive interpreting, sight interpreting and simultaneous interpreting to third and fourth-year students and postgraduates. I also work as consecutive and simultaneous interpreter at international conferences and I provide interpreting/translation services as well as training programs for government agencies and enterprises in Chongqing such as the Chongqing Foreign Affairs Office, the British Consulate to Chongqing, the Danish Consulate to Chongqing and Changan Group.
One of the main challenges is that I will often interpret some subjects which are completely new to me. Acquiring new knowledge is beneficial because by doing so unknown opportunities might arise.
The world is changing fast. Make sure you have up-to-date information to help you keep up with the times. There are many useful courses available. Make sure you choose the most valuable to you. Consulting those people who have experience in that area is very useful.